“There are three reasons why this is one of the most special places in the world. It is the largest church in the world dedicated to the Virgin Mary; it has been under the protection of the Spanish Crown since the reign of Charles I; the Holy Father comes here to pray all alone, before and after every trip. It is thus an honour and a source of pride for the Fondazione Endesa to light this Basilica”
As far back as the 16th century, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (also King of Spain as Charles I) made donations to the Basilica and, legend has it, the gilding on the ceiling was completed using the first gold brought back to Spain from Peru.
The Spanish sovereigns have been Honorary Protocanons of the Basilica since Pope Innocent X issued a papal bull to that effect in 1647. This privilege was renewed in 1953 by a Concordat between the Vatican and Spain “in consideration of the piety and devotion that have linked the Spanish nation and the Patriarchal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.” King Juan Carlos has been Honorary Protocanon since 1977 and, on January 19th, took part in the inauguration ceremony for the new lighting system. The presence of a royal personage underscored, in fact, the Basilica’s significance to Spain on the day on which it was lit by the Enel Group for the entire world to see.